Sarcophagus Fragment, Roman, ca. 240-250 CE, The Art Institute of Chicago

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Peroni Colosseum

Here in Milwaukee, we are no strangers to corporate sponsorship. Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, bears the name of, you guessed it, Miller Brewing Co. The signs are certainly big enough, so there's no doubt as to who helped finance the stadium. We've also got the U.S. Cellular Arena and the Bradley Center (named after its locally famous benefactor), where the Bucks play. I have no problem with breweries or cellphone providers plastering their names on sports complexes. Often, their capitol is needed for these buildings to be constructed in the first place, and they rightly expect a little advertising in return. Could the Colosseum soon join the ranks of corporately sponsored sports arenas?

One would think that the best way to maintain ancient monuments and sites is to throw money at them, and one would be right. Unfortunately, money is often hard to come by, especially in Italy. The Italian government just doesn't have the money to maintain its huge catalog of archaeological treasures. Admission is already charged at most famous sites, like the Colosseum and Pompeii, but ticket sales aren't enough. What is Italy's solution? Advertising. Italy hopes to find a corporate sponsor to spend over $30 million to restore the Colosseum. For that hefty fee the yet unnamed sponsor will get the right to print their logo on Colosseum admission tickets, place posters around the base of the building and conduct their own private tours. Miller Park is one thing, but the Peroni Colosseum? While I am not thrilled with this latest development, I understand its necessity. I only hope that a balance can be found between corporate investment and scholarship. Scholarship should never take a back seat to corporate interests, and I hope that whoever decides to fund the Colosseum restoration understands that they are nothing more than stewards of the building, keeping it safe for study, enjoyment and most importantly, future generations.
The Colosseum, known in antiquity as the Flavian Amphitheater, was completed in 80 CE by the emperor Titus. The project was begun by Titus' father, Vespasian, who wished to replace Nero's Golden House with something more egalitarian. The amphitheater was a Roman invention (the earliest example is found in Pompeii) and was constructed solely for public displays, such as gladiator fights, beast hunts and executions. With seating for 50,000, the Colosseum was the largest amphitheater ever built in the Roman world. It continued to be used through the 6th century CE, after which it fell into disuse, was damaged by earthquakes, and eventually became a marble quarry. The name Colosseum is a reference to the colossal statue that once stood near the arena. The 100 ft. tall bronze statue was built by Nero, in his likeness, and remained through antiquity, though the head was changed to resemble Sol Invictus.


Mike Anderson said...


Nice post. It would sure be nice if funding to restore these sites could be obtained without overt advertising, but it is what it is.

Jacob said...

This article was nominated by readers and selected as a top 5 online history article during the month of August at